Highland plateau region in south-central USA in southern Missouri, northern Arkansas, northeastern Oklahoma, southern Illinois, and southeastern Kansas, with ridges, valleys, and streams; area 130,000 sq km/50,000 sq mi. The Ozark Plateau is bounded on the southwest by the Neosho River, on the south by the Arkansas River, on the north by the Missouri and Osage rivers, and on the east by the Black River. The peaks lie at an altitude of 370–550 m/1,200–1,800 ft. The plateau was traditionally a poor area of subsistence farming, but has latterly attracted tourists (to the lakes created by dams on the rivers here) and people seeking retirement homes.
History The area was settled in the early 19th century by Tennessee and Kentucky migrants accustomed to isolated hill farming. Lead mining was once important in the southeast of Missouri, in the region around Viburnum. In the 1830s, Cherokee people driven westward on the Trail of Tears settled areas on the eastern fringes of the plateau.
Geology The Ozark Plateau is conventionally divided into four sections: the Salem Plateau (northeast); the Springfield Plateau (northwest); the Saint François Mountains (east); and the rugged Boston Mountains to the southeast, the highest on the plateau (over 710 m/2,300 ft). The Ouachita Mountains, south of the Arkansas River, are sometimes considered an extension of the Ozarks. Geologically, the plateau is a southwestern outlier of the Appalachian System, comprising igneous roots with an eroded overlay of limestone and dolomite mixed with flints. Major forests here are the Ozark National Forest (4,050 sq mi/1,564 sq mi) in northwestern Arkansas, and the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. The region's principal rivers are the White and its tributaries, such as the Buffalo.
Features Formerly an isolated area of the USA, the Ozarks are fast-developing as a tourist destination. Ozark folklore, music, and crafts now enjoy a wide popularity. The Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri, preserves a 225 km/140 mi stretch along the Current River and Jacks Fork. In Arkansas, the state park and Ozark Folk Center at Mountain View, and spa town of Eureka Springs, are notable attractions. Branson, a resort centre in the Ozark lakes of east Kansas, is known as the ‘Ozark Disneyland’, with theme parks and country music theatres.
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